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Ferris claims Pensions Bill is further attack on low paid

8 June, 2011 - by Martin Ferris TD

Sinn Féin TD for Kerry North/Limerick Martin Ferris has claimed that the Pensions Bill constitutes a further attack on the low paid.

Speaking in the debate in the Dáil this afternoon Deputy Ferris stated that while the restoration of the National Minimum Wage was included in the legislation, that the Government was clearly following the agenda set by the EU/IMF as part of the bank bailout. He said that this underlay the apparent desire to undermine the wages and conditions of workers covered by the JLC wage orders.

Deputy Ferris said:

“The current government is following the template laid down by the EU/IMF Memorandum of Understanding, as recently slightly modified, and included in that is the timetable for the raising of the pension age which is included in this Bill. They are also clearly following the timetable set out by the EU/IMF, hence the guillotine on this bill.

“Is there anyone on the opposite side who can honestly say that they would have even considered bringing in this legislation to raise the pension age if they were not obligated to do so by the terms laid out in the Memorandum of Understanding?

“As has been pointed out, including the welcome restoration of the National Minimum wage alongside the proposal to raise the pension age is a cynical move. No doubt attempts will also be made on the basis of the opposition of Sinn Féin and others here to this Bill that we voted against the restoration of the minimum wage.

“The restoration of the National Minimum Wage is welcome and no-one who knows my party’s record on this issue will be fooled into believing that our opposition to this bill is because we support lowering the minimum wage.

“But while that restoration is welcome, and fulfils at least one of the government parties election promises, low paid workers continue to be under threat.

“We recently had the publication of the Duffy report on JLCs and wage orders and that was supposed to form the basis of consultations involving the trade unions. However, comments from Minister Bruton and others since its publication would indicate that the intention is to go beyond the report’s recommendations and that low paid workers could still find themselves in a situation where hard won rates and conditions will be undermined in one way or another.

“The review itself arose from the EU/IMF bailout and it is clear that when they ask for, indeed order, a review of this or the credit unions or pensions or state assets sales, that they clearly have in mind an outcome that will not benefit the majority of citizens of this state. So that if, as with the Duffy report, the review findings are not as they wish they can be set aside and measures more inimical to workers pressed ahead with.

“And just to give an example of the type of workers we are talking about and to cut through some of the propaganda being put around by advocates of going beyond the Duffy report.

“Under the Employment Regulation Order set in July 2008 a hairdresser in Dublin is entitled to a basic rate of €303.59 for a 39 hour week. Or just €268.07 if under the age of 18.

“That is €7.07 per hour for someone over 18. Less than the National Minimum Wage. The rate set in June 2007 for contract cleaners was €370.50 for a 39 hour week. That is marginally above the restored minimum wage.

“And I could list several other areas such as security, clothing hotel workers and so on where similar rates apply. Even with whatever modest increases have occurred since then and with overtime of time and a half and a Sunday rate of double time, we are not talking about people living in the lap of luxury.

“Certainly it is hard to imagine that Dublin hairdressers will be sponsoring any Fine Gael golf classics in the K Club any time soon.

“These are the type of people who it has been decreed ought to bear the brunt of paying for the gambling debts of the so-called elite.”

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